B280m more needed to identify tsunami dead

PHUKET: Around 20 million baht is needed to pay for the testing of DNA samples of victims of the tsunami who have yet to be identified, the head of the Thai Tsunami Victims Identification centre (TTVI), Pol Gen Noppadol Somboonsap, said yesterday.

And an additional 260 million baht, or more, may be needed to set up a proposed Thai-run disaster victims identification (DVI) center to continue identifying bodies after foreign teams have pulled out of Phuket.

Altogether, 1,663 victims, Thai and foreign, have now been identified. Most of the foreigners have been identified through dental records or fingerprints.

However, investigators are turning more towards DNA, particularly to identify the Thai victims, as many of them – especially from Phang Nga – had no dental records and, in places where buildings were washed away, it is difficult to find fingerprints of people who are missing to compare with those taken from the bodies of the dead.

The DNA samples are now being sent to the International Commission for Missing Persons (ICMP) in Bosnia for analysis.

Gen Noppadol said, “We have already sent about 750 DNA samples … but with each test costing 10,000 baht, and there still being nearly 2,000 bodies yet to be identified, we are looking at a total bill of 20 million baht for DNA analysis alone.”

Gen Noppadol was speaking during a visit to Phuket by Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Pol Gen Chidchai Wannasatit.

The minister said the Thai authorities are planning to establish a new DVI center to continue the work of the foreign teams after they have gone, but the minister said he could not give more details until they had been discussed by the government.

Pol Col Pornprasert Kanjanarin, the Joint Chief of Staff, said that around 140 million baht would be needed to set up a system to compare fingerprints, and 120 million baht for the software to analyse the results of the DNA testing – but added that these would be only the initial costs. The centre would have a staff of 105.

Gen Chidchai heard that one of the biggest problems will be identifying Burmese migrants, especially those killed in Phang Nga, as few of them had even been reported as missing.

Funding for the international DVI operation became an issue this weekend when Ronald Noble, the Secretary General of Interpol – which is co-ordinating the identification process – told the media about staff having to scrounge money and vital equipment because of the way the operation has been funded.

Gen Noppadol declined to join in the fray, saying instead that, as examples of foreign funding, Australia had spent about one billion baht on the DVI process, and Norway 100 million.

He said, “Each country has been responsible for paying for its own DVI team, but we have supported the teams by supplying food and accommodation. Everyone has been helping each other; we haven’t been taking advantage of anyone.”

Although 1,663 of the dead have now been identified, another 1,968 remain unidentified. Of these, around 500 are thought to be foreigners, and almost all of these should be identified by the end of the year, said Gen Noppadol.

Phuket News

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